Monday, March 19, 2012

grilled pizza bar

even despite the fact that i can hear the pitter patter of raindrops hitting my cement patio whilst i write this, i know in my heart that summer is upon us.

you know how the groundhog did that thing and told us there was going to be 8 more weeks of winter? well.

God must have been like "i'll show them!" i'll give it to them in 4!" and so he did.

i have tan lines. spring training is in full swing. all boots and mittens have said hello again to the top shelf of the closet and i have said good riddance to the ice scraper that has lingered in the back seat of my car for far too long.

i am so completely ready for this summer. i seriously can't wait. i haven't been around milwaukee for the whole summer for 3 years and i plan to live. it. up.

i don't know if global warming is actually legit or not but if it means that we get 75 degrees in the middle of march, i am all for it.

and what better way to kick off the summer than with a new grilling recipe?

and what better new recipe to try than grilled pizza?

ok, so i was a little over exhuberant for this. as in i made my own pizza dough and my own pizza sauce. obviously that's not completely necessary, but if your crazy like me (and have a lot of time on your hands!), it's definitely worth it. i also made my pizza over-the-top awesome, but any other day of the week a mushroom and pepperoni pizza is just as wonderful.

i was cooking for my two older brothers and a friend of ours, so i decided to do a make-your-own-pizza bar. so once my dough and sauce was done (both recipes below), i worked on the toppings.

as previously stated, spring has sprung in my mind. and lately, when i think of spring, asparagus is literally the first thing that comes to mind.

and i'm not kidding, people.

so i par-cooked some asparagus, chopped up some mushrooms and sliced some fresh mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes. i also had some pepperoni, shredded mozzarella, and an italian blend of cheeses. this was going to be a fantabulous pizza bar.

and with my pizza sauce done simmering on the stove and my brother telling me the grill was ready, we started on this little adventure.

and when i say adventure, i really mean learning experience.

you see, i took bobby flay's advice on making, rolling out and grilling the pizza dough, thinking he probably had made a few. however, it was not-so-foolproof.

here's what not to do: don't make the dough, roll it out into 1/8" thick rounds and then keep them in the refrigerator, stacked between sheets of plastic wrap and then covered.

because that is what i did, and as you can probably see, i only had one that came off the grill in the same shape i had made it to be.

the crusts were rolled too thin to begin with, so when i tried to de-plastic wrap them, they started to tear and rip and make me upset.

here's what you should do: make the dough about an hour and a half before you would like to serve them. roll them to a thickness where you would feel comfortable picking up with both hands and placing them on the grill grates, probably more like 1/4 - 1/3" thick. then dust with just enough flour and leave under some lightly placed plastic wrap until your grill is completely ready.

another tid bit of information is to start with all your coals together, for a higher heat, then when you take the pizzas off for the first time, spread them out evenly around the bottom of the grill, so there is a lighter and more even indirect heat.

once the crust is past the doughy stage and moving onto the grill mark stage, take them off the grill and bring them back inside. here, we each called dibs on certain pizza crust real estate and got to the assembly.

for mine, i started with the pizza sauce and then piled it high, starting with asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms and fresh mozzarella. i topped it off with a sprinkle of the italian cheese blend and a shake or two of dried oregano leaves.

for my brother's mountain-of-cheese pizza, there is a sauce base, an obscene amount of pepperoni, a layer of fresh mozzarella and then a manly handful of shredded mozzarella. he also sprinkled on some crushed red pepper flakes and oregano leaves as well.

my other brother's was very similar to that and our friend decided to stick with just cheese. no harm in that! in fact, you probably get to appreicate more of the grill flavor that way.

really hard to tell which one is mine...

so with all of our pizzas assembled, we moved back out to the grill.

and with the coals all spread out, it worked really nicely to melt all the cheese and soften everything up without putting any more color on the crusts.

and they were all really good.
like really good.
like i-got-compliments-from-my-brothers...-really?!-good.

so this one is definitely going on the go-to entertainment food list. it's fun to be able to make your own (especially fun for the kiddos!) and it's even more fun to play with the different kinds of toppings you could think of. pineapple, canadian bacon, italian sausage, black olives, caramelized onions, chicken, or green peppers just to name a few. plus you can make it a ton easier and pick up a ball of pizza dough from your favorite pizzaria and buy your favorite jarred pizza sauce. then all you have is a little chopping to do!

so go embrace this awesome weather that God has blessed us with and grill up some pizzas. your family, and maybe even your waistline, will thank you.

Pizza Dough
2/3 cup lukewarm water (105 degrees F to 115 degrees F)
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugart
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for oiling bowl
1 3/4 to 2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/4 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal, or I used Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
2 teaspoons coarse salt

In a large bowl, stir together 1/3 cup water, yeast, and sugar and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/3 cup water, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 3/4 cups flour, cornmeal or bread crumbs, and salt and blend until the mixture forms a dough. Knead dough on a floured surface, incorporating as much of remaining 1/4 cup flour, as necessary, to prevent dough from sticking, until smooth about 5 to 10 minutes. Form the dough into a ball.

Lightly oil the sides and bottom of a large bowl with oil, add the dough, turn to coat in the oil, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Gently punch the dough down and divide into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece on a lightly floured surface into a 10-inch circle that is 1/4 to 1/3-inch thick. Brush off excess flour and transfer the dough to a baking sheet, cover each circle of dough with plastic wrap and continue stacking rolled out pieces on top of each other. Wrap lightly with plastic wrap until ready to grill. (Makes about 4-8" round pizza crusts.

Meanwhile, heat the grill to high.

Brush both sides of the pizzas with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until golden brown on both sides, 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from the grill, spread sauce and other ingredients onto the crusts and top with cheese. Place back on the grill, close the cover of the grill and let them go until the cheese has melted and any vegetables are tender, about 2-5 minutes, depending on the toppings.

Pizza Sauce
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes (tomato sauce would work, too)
2 teaspoons of dried basil leaves
2 tablespoons of dried oregano leaves
2 teaspoons of dried marjoram (don't go out and buy this just for this recipe, but if you have it, throw it in)
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped (optional)

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add in the minced garlic and saute until a light golden brown. Continue to add the rest of the ingredients and let simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. If adding fresh basil, do so right before you remove the sauce from the stove. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.